Why are there no Wo-Men in Tolkien’s Stories?

I recently saw a video stating there are no women in the Lord of the Rings.  I took a quick search on the internet and found more than a few posts about the lack of women in Tolkien’s series, from the Hobbit to the Lord of the Ring series.

There are no (real) women in Tolkien.  But that’s not all.

There are no real children, who need to be nurtured and cared for.  There are no real babies and no mothers nurturing them, trying to find time to sleep.  No angst ridden teenagers. There are no real aging seniors, who need help to look after themselves.  There are no caregivers. There are no care receivers.  There are no homeless people, no depressed people, no sick people who need help. No one who devotes their time, or their lives, to helping others. There are no families, no communities of people working together, cooperating to enhance their communities. Cooperation is only important if it moves the story forward. Families exist only to provide a chronology, not as a source of community, not as a source of healthiness.

There are women in Tolkien, of course. But they are just ‘named’ women. They are not doing anything as women. Or if so, they might not be important enough to have names “Mother: “Èothan, Èothan! You take your sister. You’ll go faster with just two.””.   There are some children just ‘named children’, There are ‘Elf Children’, who are 20 years or older, who need no governing. They are like adults, in a child’s body.  The Children of Hurin are adults as well.

When we look again, we slowly realize that there are no men in Lord of the Rings either. There are no fathers who are fathering.  There are no brothers who are “brothering”. There are no sons who are looking after children, nor sons looking after aged parents.  The male figures only become real men, settling down with families – after the stories end.

The men in Lord of the Rings are adolescent adventurers.  Gandalf is an old man, but he acts like a child playing wargames. “Gandalf was not a mortal Man but an angelic being who had taken human form.”

Jump ahead 10,000 years, more or less, to arrive at Star Trek and the Enterprise, also an adventure of adolescent men. The women on the Enterprise, and the men, have gender in name only.  They are required to act like male soldiers. They don’t think like women, don’t talk like women, don’t act like women. Real women live in communities, create and enhance communities. Apparently, the women on the Enterprise are not allowed to reproduce, like those in Tolkien stories, until after their journey is over. There are no children on the Enterprise, no aged. There are no families. There are also no sick people on the Enterprise. Chronic, incurable, degenerative illnesses, like arthritis, do not exist. The only disease that occurs, apparently, is death. And only if you wear a red shirt.

Not just in Tolkien and on The Enterprise.  Unless a movie, TV program, or book is specifically targeted at women, it probably doesn’t contain any roles for women. It is a story of strong, healthy, adult males. Or is it a story of ‘unhealthy’ adult males – fighting with each other, ignoring the real people. Check out the your local news channel. Try to find stories of real people. Not exciting enough, I guess. I’m watching CNN today, covering war and terrorism. But there are no children on camera.  No one who can’t get food, because of the over-armed adolescent males, running around shooting each other. We see armed soldiers running through empty buildings, as if they sprang full size from the grass. Real life is not like that.  In real life, young healthy fighting men are a small part of society. Why are they such a large part of our news, of our stories?

Stories of adult males, living black and white stories of right and wrong. Those are the stories we want, the stories we see, the stories that sell. Reality doesn’t sell products, so reality doesn’t sell.

We want stories that are exciting. Stories with clear villains and heroes.  But in real life, there are no villains and no heroes, just people.  Real people.  Sometimes  they act like villains. Sometimes they do bad things.  Sometimes we see them as villains, or as heroes. But most of the time, they are people, people with families, with mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, living in communities, trying to get along with each other. These are the real stories. They are out there – just hard to find in the media.

Healthy people become invisible.  Healthy women don’t fight wars.  They do healthy things. Like talk, listen, communicate. When those actions are most effective, we don’t even notice them. Healthy men teach their children, love their wives, participate in their communities. Healthy communities learn to work out their differences with other communities, not to go to war.

Our health does not come from fighting each other. It does not come from ‘strong individuals’.  After all, every strong individual dies quickly, in a 10,000 year view.  Our health comes from our communities.  Our families, our relationships with others.  When we work together to resolve challenging problems and challenging differences, without resorting to killing each other, the stories become more complex, richer, and our healthiness grows. But those stories don’t make good television nor compelling plot-lines.

Women create families.  Without men if necessary. Women nurture our children, and our communities.  Women have much more community sense, stronger community healthiness than males, especially adolescent males. And as a result, they can disappear as individuals, and only become visible when they act like men.

The truth about Tolkein and Star Trek: there are no families, no real families in either story.  There are no teachers, no mentors, no-one is seeking the truth, because ‘truth’ is defined by the story.  In real communities, truth is not defined by the communities, but by their interactions.  The man who climbs alone to the top of the mountain to find another man – alone against the elements – to ask the ‘meaning of life’, lost the meaning of life when he left his communities to strike out alone.  He will regain the meaning of life when he returns to his family. Life, without family, without community, without women, and children, and aging great grandparents, has little meaning.

to your health, tracy

Tracy is the author of two book about healthicine: 


About Tracy Kolenchuk

Founder of Healthicine.org. Author of two books about healthicine; Healthicine: The Arts and Sciences of Health and Healthiness Healthicine: Introduction to Healthicine
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